The Dead Hand is a new series from Image Comics involving Russians and Americans, and the secrets they keep. How timely. This new story by Stephen Mooney and Kyle Higgins offers a tale that’s slightly unexpected, going down a route that’s not just killer spies, but twists on what it takes to keep the peace.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
“COLD WAR RELICS,” Part One Carter Carlson was a highly decorated operative during the Cold War. But in the fall of 1991, as the Soviet Union collapsed, Carter discovered a secret that not only changed his life…but also altered the course of history. Now, as the mysterious “Dead Hand” threatens to end the world once again, the only thing standing in its way is the relationship between an old spy and a little boy.
Why does this matter?
First and foremost this is drawn by Mooney, who has done fantastic work on his creator-owned series Half Past Danger and is perfect for this series. The man can draw adventure like no other and the facial expressions are on point, son.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is a story about Russia.
The plotting of this issue is quite good, catching you off guard halfway through and then throwing you for a loop at the very end. That comes as a shock since it opens in a conventional way as protagonist Carter Carlson infiltrates a Russian base. Higgins draws you in with Carlson’s internal monologue via captions, giving readers insight on what is going on in the world and who Carlson is via flashbacks and perspective on the situation. We learn Carlson wanted to be a superhero growing up, lost his father, and ended up being a superhero in some respect working for a spy organization. The fact that the story ends in a quiet town in the middle of nowhere and it makes total sense speaks to how well Higgins sets up expectations and draws you in.
Mooney is masterful with this issue. Be it pinup style full page montaged spreads, excellent character acting, or a double page layout that could serve as an action movie poster, all make for an excellent spy drama style.
Colorist Jordie Bellaire keeps the color palette grounded in reality with some excellent use of red and blue to highlight the pinup style spreads. Carlson’s mask has the perfect amount of sheen too, which helps give him a superhero look even if he’s just a super spy.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There isn’t a whole lot of action, which might disappoint some due to the look of the cover and the general premise of the book. It does read with some heavy exposition and development which could have used a bit more action going on. As it stands half the book is flashback or reveals in a montage-like format and then the second is all about getting your bearings.
Is It Good?
I wasn’t sure what I was getting and that’s part of the fun in reading The Dead Hand. Spy adventures are a dime a dozen, but with The Dead Hand, Mooney and Higgins have an instant hit on their hands.